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How to be an optimist from the SEC West

There might be a way.

NCAA Football: Louisiana State at Auburn Julie Bennett-USA TODAY Sports

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

This week’s SEC slate was supposed to be pretty boring, and there were a lot of things fans thought they knew heading into the weekend. This Tuesday morning, a lot of that changed.

For the most part, the teams everyone expected to win did so.

It’s just that there were some interesting takeaways from each SEC game. Not much played out according to plan, even if the end results were predictable. For instance, coming into the year, I might have predicted Tennessee would lose to Florida, but .... not like that.

Unfortunately, one thing that’s crystal clear: Alabama’s still good. Like, really good. We knew it, and it just kind of sucks that there’s no level of doubt in this team. The way they so easily handled Texas A&M showed Alabama is the best in the country, and something wild is going to have to happen to keep the Crimson Tide from winning another national championship.

That in mind, let’s peek elsewhere around the SEC to frown at other teams.

Maybe Vanderbilt’s not all that great.

Because they kept the game close against Notre Dame two weeks ago, a lot of people got on the “Vanderbilt isn’t a bad football team” train; last weekend’s matchup against South Carolina, which saw the Commodores gain just 282 yards of offense and give up 5.7 yards per carry (with no long outliers), may have put an end to that. I actually watched parts of the game, and Kyle Shurmur’s 28.8 QBR was pretty exemplary of his performance. It wasn’t good.

It was kinda bad, actually.

This Kentucky team might be for real.

I got a good bit of satisfaction laughing at Dan Mullen last week for his loss to Kentucky, but maybe that wasn’t such a terrible loss. The Wildcats dominated a pretty good Mississippi State team, and Benny Snell was unstoppable. Snell has seven touchdowns through four games and is making a case for significant postseason awards, at least on the conference-wide level.

It has to feel nice as a Kentucky fan to finally feel like the football program is on the map. I’m not sure how far this team can go, but hope springs eternal when you’re 4-0.

LOL. Tennessee.

A lot can be pinned on Tennessee’s five turnovers, which are mostly just kinda random (especially with four being fumbles). Still, losing by 26 to a bad Florida team is pretty sad. Maybe the Vols will get it together again or something, but at this point using the term “again” in this sentence is getting kinda weird. Fun story: Tennessee has one ten-win season in the past fourteen years.

On the other hand, I guess it’s possible Florida isn’t as terrible as we thought after the Kentucky game. Maybe Kentucky’s actually just good enough to make Florida look bad.

Arkansas and Auburn’s score was predictable, but the rest of the game really wasn’t.

In case you missed it. Auburn beat the Razorbacks 34-3. It really wasn’t that bad though. Sure, the Razorbacks were dysfunctional on offense, but their defense made Auburn look even worse. The Tigers had just 225 yards of offense ... and somehow managed to win by 31. It all really came down to big plays on two punts, a kickoff returned for a touchdown, and a 57 yard interception-return. They got it done.

Jarrett Stidham’s performance so far this year has been unproductive. Don’t get me wrong; he’s not playing terrible football in general, but for a quarterback people said might be the second best in the league this year, it has been a real disappointment. Judging the production of a quarterback by his passing yardage totals can be very faulty, so remember that. But he has only thrown for over 200 yards once this season. It’s hard to argue that’s helpful to the Tigers’ chances to make significant noise this year.

What does this all mean, then?

Well, it’s clearly Alabama and everybody else. Ole Miss’ game at LSU should actually tell us a fair amount about the state of both teams — the Rebs’ offense vs. a good-but-not-Bama-good defense, for instance — and in the event of an upset, it may initiate an earnest debate about the heat of Ed Orgeron’s coaching seat in Baton Rouge.

There’s something to be optimistic about.